A link between inflammation and breast cancer density has been identified, and may provide future preventive options.

In a study published in Breast Cancer Research, investigators found that the protein CCL2 was the cause of increased inflammation and breast density in mouse models. Furthermore, CCL2 was found to be present in women with high breast density.

“Women with dense breast tissue are at a 4- to 6-fold increased risk of breast cancer, compared to women with low-density, it’s actually a really important risk factor,” said lead investigator Wendy Ingman, as reported by News-Medical. “This research is quite exciting because it’s the first time that we’ve been able to show that inflammation can actually drive density and breast cancer risk.

“We are starting to understand that it’s not necessarily all women, it might be this subset of women who are most at risk.”

Although anti-inflammatory drugs have been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer, these medications have long-term adverse events that could pose a threat to an individual’s health. However, with the new study findings, it would allow medications to be prescribed more selectively, according to News-Medical.

“It has been very clearly shown that anti-inflammatories, such as aspirin, can reduce women’s breast cancer risk, however, take long-term they have other unwanted side effects [sic], such as increased risk of stroke,” Ingman said, as reported by News-Medical. “So it’s not ideal to be giving a long-term anti-inflammatory to women who are otherwise healthy.

“But if you can identify the women who are most at risk, then that risk/benefit becomes more in favor of taking the anti-inflammatory.”

Overall, the end goal would be to prescribe a drug as a prophylactic treatment for women who were identified as being at-risk, according to Ingman.

“Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, so being able to prevent it would be fantastic,” Ingman told News-Medical. “We hope that in the future, breast cancer will not be the most common type of cancer in women.”